Coping With Anxiety Over Trying to Conceive

Sometimes, strong pressure is put on women to get pregnant. However, being constantly reminded and having impositions put on them doesn't mean it'll happen. The question is: what should you do if you have to deal with this kind of situation?
Coping With Anxiety Over Trying to Conceive

Last update: 12 May, 2022

When a couple decides to have a child, they tend to believe that the process will be easy. However, what happens when pregnancy doesn’t occur? It usually increases anxiety. This reaction to the situation, although normal, is an obstacle to actually conceiving.

When anxiety appears, women begin to question themselves: “Could I be infertile?”, “What’s wrong with me?”, “What if I never manage to get pregnant?”. These types of questions, instead of promoting a sensible solution to the problem, simply increase their anxiety.

Anxiety over trying to conceive

As a matter of fact, the stress that accompanies this frustrating situation seems to have adverse effects on fertility. For example, one study discovered that women with higher levels of cytokines, a hormone that increases with stress, were less likely to conceive a baby.

In addition to cytokines, high concentrations of salivary alpha-amylase, an enzyme secreted by the salivary glands in response to stress, have also been linked to reduced fertility. In fact, one study found that women who had a high concentration of this enzyme had a 29 percent reduction in their fertility.

Nevertheless, the above results should be taken with great caution, as the causal relationship between stress and anxiety concerning infertility or trouble conceiving isn’t yet too clear and has been extremely difficult to confirm. Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that not getting pregnant when you want to conceive, generates a lot of anxiety. Why is this?

Couple looking at the results of a pregnancy test

What causes anxiety when trying to conceive?

There are many factors that can cause anxiety while trying to conceive. Next, we’ll review the most common.

1. The perception that a value is threatened

A value is something that’s considered valuable and important for living, without which existence would have no meaning. Therefore, if you perceive that a fundamental value of your life is being threatened with annihilation, anxiety appears. Thus, anxiety over trying to conceive becomes an existential reaction to the possibility that the value of procreating and being a mother or father isn’t being realized.

For people who want to be parents, having a child is of extreme importance. In fact, they often can’t even conceive of a happy life in the future without a child. Furthermore, the greater the desire to procreate and the more valuable and meaningful this act is perceived to be, the greater the anxiety is about not conceiving.

2. Peer pressure

In many societies, women are under great pressure to be mothers. Some manage to ignore the pressure, but others don’t.

In the midst of so much pressure, a woman who’s unable to solve this situation can feel incomplete. In fact, the constant questioning about when she’ll have a baby continually feeds her feelings of daily discomfort.

3. The biological clock

The fact that, from a certain age, it becomes harder for a woman to conceive can also be a source of pressure.  The woman might perceive that ‘time is running out’ for her to become a mother. This leads her to worry and, finally, despair.

Recent scientific advances have allowed, to a certain extent, to ‘stop’ the biological clock with the use of egg freezing. Indeed, with this technique, women can ensure their reproductive potential for the future if they’re not ready at the time.

4. The environment

The immediate environment, although a source of support, can also end up becoming a stress generator. That’s because friends and family often provide well-intentioned advice that ultimately makes a woman even more anxious about conceiving. Therefore, they unwittingly become a source of pressure.

5. Constantly seeing pregnant women

The more you want something, the more you perceive it in your environment. For example, when you’re hungry, you become more aware of food advertisements. Something similar happens with women who want to have a baby or become pregnant. They see pregnant women everywhere or mothers with children in their arms. This is one more source of anxiety, as it provokes the feeling that ‘everyone has a child except me’.

Social media can also be a constant source of anxiety. That’s because the woman who wants to conceive will possibly follow pages relating to the subject that, unintentionally, continually remind her of her frustrated desire. Browsing data (cookies) may also bombard the woman with pages and articles about pregnancy when they carry out related searches on the internet. All of this makes them feel more anxious.

How to reduce your anxiety over trying to conceive

There are no magic formulas to stop feeling anxiety when you’re trying to conceive but there are things you can do to change the way you relate to it. Let’s take a look at what you can do if you’re in this kind of situation.

1. Accept your worries and obsessions

The more you fight not to think about it and not worry about it, the more you will. Although it may sound paradoxical, the best thing you can do is listen to your thoughts and allow yourself to be with them. After all, if fighting them hasn’t worked for you, why continue applying a strategy that doesn’t work? Try to connect with your ideas and emotions.

Accept your current situation but don’t stop seeking to fulfill your goal. Accepting doesn’t mean resigning. It means opening yourself up to what’s happening, looking at it, and acting accordingly. Acceptance requires that you connect with all those unpleasant sensations, with your discomfort, sadness, and anxiety. An exercise that can help you achieve this is breathing and observation. Let’s see how you can do it.

2. Conscious diaphragmatic breathing

Get yourself into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing. Watch its rhythm and depth. Is it deep or shallow? Fast or slow? Then, place a hand on your abdomen and make sure that, when you breathe, you feel how your stomach inflates and deflates with each inhalation and exhalation. Place the other hand on your chest and try not to move it when you breathe. Only the one you have on your abdomen should move.

Breathe in slowly through your nose, so that the hand on your abdomen feels the pressure of it rising. Your hand on your chest should remain stationary. Hold your breath for a moment and exhale slowly through your mouth so that you feel your hand on your abdomen descend.

Now, let the breath take its course normally, don’t control it. In that state of stillness and silence, observe your thoughts, your emotions, and your anxiety. How do you feel? From what part of your body do those feelings emerge? What are you thinking about?

Just watch. Don’t try to resist, simply open yourself up to seeing your problems face to face. This diaphragmatic breathing exercise can help you a lot with the philological activation that causes your stress and anxiety.

Woman with eyes closed

3. Let your mind rest

Limit yourself to only doing what’s necessary in order to conceive. Don’t search social media for information on the subject. Reduce your exposure to anything that’s a source of anxiety for you about getting pregnant. Indeed, decreasing the time you spend on all things related to pregnancy is a really good strategy to give your mind a rest.

It won’t be easy for you to disconnect from everything at once. Do it gradually. Disconnecting doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop trying. Instead, you’re going to avoid overloading your mind with information on the subject. Work up to focusing on doing only what’s necessary to get pregnant. That’s because there are so many things that do nothing but increase your anxiety.

4. Let off steam

Share what you feel with the people around you. Vent your feelings. As a matter of fact, putting words to what’s happening to you in a supportive environment, no matter how small, will usually produce a great sense of relief. Another option is to put it in writing.

Finally, don’t let your anxiety over trying to conceive beat you. After all, being a mother requires courage, effort, vulnerability, and a lot of dedication. Even if it’s hard for you right now, don’t throw in the towel.

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  • Haimovici, F., Anderson, J. L., Bates, G. W., Racowsky, C., Ginsburg, E. S., Simovici, D., & Fichorova, R. N. (2018). Stress, anxiety, and depression of both partners in infertile couples are associated with cytokine levels and adverse IVF outcome. American journal of reproductive immunology79(4), e12832.
  • Lynch, C. D., Sundaram, R., Maisog, J. M., Sweeney, A. M., & Buck Louis, G. M. (2014). Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study. Human reproduction29(5), 1067-1075.
  • Rooney, K. L., & Domar, A. D. (2022). The relationship between stress and infertility. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience.